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June 23, 2021, 03.00 PM

A long path to recovery

TB is curable but treatment is long, can have harsh side effects and involves multiple medications that have to be taken every day for the full course of treatment — even if the patient is feeling better.

The disease comes in several forms. Regular TB takes about six months of treatment to cure.

If someone stops taking their medication mid-course they can develop MDR-TB, which needs different, potentially more toxic drugs and requires 12-24 months of treatment depending on the strain.

You can also catch MDR-TB from an infected person. Extensively drug-resistant TB is a rare type of MDR-TB.

After seeing no improvement on regular TB drugs, Tisile, the South African student, started MDR-TB treatment and received pills and an injection daily.

Four months of MDR-TB treatment left her deaf in both ears — a side effect of the injectable drug kanamycin, which is no longer recommended for use in treatment.

About a year after her first symptoms, she was finally diagnosed with extensively drug-resistant TB, the deadliest form of the disease. Tisile was told she had a 20% chance of surviving.

But she beat the odds. After receiving two cochlear implants that allowed her to hear, Tisile returned to her studies. She graduated from Cape Town University at the end of 2020 with a degree in social sciences.

Now she is a TB advocate campaigning for less toxic treatments and educating people about the disease.


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